Ticketing – we still don’t get it

Every public transport ticketing system change in Melbourne since the introduction of scratch tickets in the has been unpopular.  Scratch tickets, and the removal of conductors from trams, were hugely so – and as the linked post argues, helped to create a culture of fare evasion that continue to plague Melbourne’s public transport.

While the development of the Myki system has been ridiculously over budget, I have to say that the system in full operation works is actually an improvement on Metcards. Mykis are far less fragile than Metcards ever were; they also avoid you needing to think about what type of ticket you should buy; you just hop on the train and let the technology figure it out.

But, still, the fundamental misunderstanding of their job of the people in charge of the system flabbergasts me sometimes. As somebody who’s used a lot of public transport systems across the world, ticketing in a foreign city is always confusing, and Myki is a fair bit less confusing than most. And so tourists are pretty much always going to complain. But, really, this is just outrageously incompetent:

Mr Carolan said ticketing bosses wanted to make the system work for visitors and tourists.

Skybus recently started selling myki visitor packs, and there were plans for the cards to be sold at Melbourne Airport and visitors’ cards to be returned and recycled.

Did anybody in the Victorian government consider that the experience of Melbourne’s public transport was likely to be a major component of how tourists – and business travellers, for that matter – experience the city? That getting this stuff right matters – and they needed to be on the case of the Myki team to make sure it was dealt with? It’s not rocket science. They need to make it easy for tourists to a) buy a Myki, b) how to touch on and off b) understand how to keep it charged up if necessary, and the likely maximum cost per day, and d) make it dead easy to get a refund on the card and unused credit before they go, and this should have been ready to go on the shutdown date.

It’s not like they haven’t had plenty of time to plan the transition, given the years of delay. And they still don’t have a mechanism for easy refunds for tourists – and instructions for tourists in a variety of languages made available as they come in? Ridiculous.

I’m afraid it comes back to the problem that was identified with the introduction of scratch tickets all those years ago; the ticketing authorities still don’t realize that the way to maximise revenue is to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to pay for their public transport, and that principle needs to be given first, second, and third priority before everything else.

But given the sorry history of public transport ticketing not only in Melbourne but around Australia – Sydney’s ticketing system is worse still – I reckon we’ll be having the same battle in another 15 years or so when Myki bites the dust.

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3 Responses to Ticketing – we still don’t get it

  1. BilB says:

    This is my comment from a previous thread. I agree that there is no excuse for doing a bad job in developing these systems. On the tourist refunds front there is an opportunity to use the unused balance on the cards as a charity donation. My daughters perspective on Myki is “why did they not do what Perth did and take up Hong Kong’s Octopus Card which works on all modes of transport but also works as an eftpos card and allows the user to buy coffee and other things. Further more it can be topped up virtually anywhere. The octopus card is a proximity card and does not require the “hold here” requirement.

    Having just spent a few days in Melbourne for My daughter’s graduation I have a few comments to make about this from the user’s point of view. For starters I don’t catch cabs because they are too expensive, and where I would like to use them the cabs will not do the short run that would suit my purposes. Cabs want long runs no doubt because their overheads are too high. I do like the cab colours, the best that I have seen anywhere, and the Prius cabs look the best of all.

    I used the trams extensively, and herein is the reason for this comment. The ne MiKi system has some major failings. I imagine that the functional software for the system is excellent, however the user interface software totally sucks. The industrial designers have also fallen short of success with their physical design which leaves the user unsure where to place the card. The software guys obviously know nothing about cognitive ergonomics as the operating cycle is a total mystery to the user and the device fails to give adequate confirmation that the card has been read. the units are fitted at about waste height and the text on the screen is about 14 point. Far too small to be read by anyone over 40. Then the content of the successful read message is a total screw up as it says “READ ON SUCCESSFUL”, far too similar to “READ UN SUCCESSFUL”. Blind Freddie should be able to use these things with confidence. I gave up worrying. I poked my card at it and didn’t look back. Goodness knows if any fares were ever paid.

    On the other hand the Tram Finder App is brilliant, once I realised that I had to re boot my phone to make it work.

    I do really like Melbourne. It is a fun city.

  2. Moz in Oz says:

    Having just moved from Melbourne to Sydney the Myki system is starting to seem even better than it did when I lived with it. Having to buy three paper tickets to get from the airport to a job interview was bad enough, but now that I live here it’s bloody unbearable. Can’t buy one way tickets from vending machines in advance because they’re “today only”, fare between any two stations is unique (bar the CBD city loop), vending machines that often don’t work, not allowed to get off and back on at intermediate stations (which is common now we have cellphones so people can ring us while we’re travelling and say “pick me up on your way through”), and so on. But mostly just “buy a ticket. Max $20 note”. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Faaaaark!

    Flip side, the extensive network in NSW works really well for me. We took an “urban” train to Gosford for a music festival and can get to within easy biking distance of Canberra the same way. They’ll take my giant loadbike without question (we shall never mention regional trains and bicycles in the same sentence. Ever. In NSW or Vic. I am not sure whether it’s worse to have “box it and we will break it” or “we might take it, or we might not, depends on how we feel on the day”).

    If Sydney had Myki I’d be happy. If they had Oyster (or Octopus) I’d be thrilled. If NSW binned the old rattler trains I’d be even happier.

  3. Hi Robert,
    I couldn’t agree more. That second last paragraph hits the nail on the head. It must be easy to pay for the fare. It fact it must be easier to buy a ticket (top up, touch on, whatever) that it would be to get on a train/tram/bus without a fare.At the moment it isn’t.
    Fare evasion is largely about respect. People don’t respect the transport system any more, because it’s been left to decay. If the system was efficient and reliable and, this is important, communicates true and accurate information when it breaks down, people will gain respect for it. And therefore be more willing to pay. How many times have there been line suspensions and they say buses are in operation and you see 4,000 people standing around waiting for one? If it’s school start or finish time you know there won’t be any buses. Or you get sent from one location to another because Metro people don’t talk to each other. This just breeds disrespect and fare evasion is an obvious product of that. Myki could have been the perfect opportunity to try to build that respect up again but they blew it.
    Actually I think Metro acknowledged this poor communication as a problem when they took over from Connex and were going to address it. I have seen some improvements but much more needs to be done.
    A recent example I found funny and sad at the same time was a line suspension from Blackburn to Ringwood one evening. I had all the info from Twitter, SMS alerts and the Metro website (albeit slightly inconsistent) on my phone and the driver gets on the PA to tell us that he doesn’t know why there’s a bank up of trains coming into Blackburn but it looks like we might be here for a while! It shouldn’t be that hard.

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